M. Philips Price

England and Genoa

(19 April 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 28, 19 April 1922, p. 209.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2019). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

It is an irony of fate that the first great international conference for the reconstruction of Europe, to which Russia and Germany have been invited, should have been called by those who are obviously now going to reap the least possible benefits from it. It is no exaggeration to say that at Genoa the heads of the Federation of British Industries – that great combination of industrial capital, which has fattened out of the war and has made Lloyd George its tame Minister – hoped to save their fortunes, check the growth of French finance in Europe, raise the falling prestige of the British Empire in Asia and play the leading part in the reconstruction of the public economy of Europe. All hopes of these people have been disappointed. According to all symptoms at the present time the initiative in conducting the Genoa conference, as far as the capitalist powers of Western Europe are concerned, will be taken by M. Poincaré and the Bloc National behind him – that is by the French banks and bondholders.

The British Empire has undoubtedly entered upon the most serious crisis in its history. There are many signs which point to the fact that the Empire is already in process of dissolution. It is true, the process may last for many years and even for decades. but the general trend of developments is already discernible. The immediate effects of the crisis at home is to strengthen the extreme reactionary elements the Conservative or Tory Party, who for a long time past have been attacking Lloyd George and demanding the end of the coalition, with which he won the war. The elements behind this party are numerous. They consist partly of the outspoken militarist elements and of certain powerful families of the aristocracy, who have regarded the War Office, the Admiralty and the India Office for years past as their special preserve. To them is to be attributed the intention of the British government, clearly seen in the latest developments, to suppress the nationalist revolutionary movements in Egypt and India with all the force of military imperialism and to drown them in a sea of blood. But in addition to these elements there are also powerful influences in the “City”, which are at work undermining the economic bases of the Lloyd George Coalition. There can be no doubt that the banks are once again becoming an important, if not a dominating factor in the government of England. During the war and for three years after it the industrial capitalists, who lived on inflation and who monopolized coal, iron, shipping and engineering factories and electrical undertakings, controlled the policy of the Lloyd George Coalition. It was they – the Federation of British Industries – that engineered the coal lockout last year, it is they who have caused the big lockout in the metal and shipbuilding industries. And why? Because they, pressed by the banks to liquidate their frozen assets, are forced now to sell to the banks at reduced prices those colossal plants, which they built in times of war inflation and boom. For now those plants are standing idle. The market is ruined in Russia, in Germany, in the Near East. In India and the Far East the native capitalist class is rising and is largely behind the nationalist movements in these lands. They are building their own factories and opening up their own mines. The products of British industries are not wanted by them. The war gave them their opportunity and they took it. There is plenty of cheap labor in Asia. The industrial capital of the Federation of British industries, is now leading its fatherland and being invested, as bank and finance capital, in the British colonies and spheres of influence. Thus the British working man, who fought in the war “to make the world safe for democracy”, now finds that he really fought in order to include by conquest in the British Empire places like Mesopotamia and the German African colonies, where their masters can now recruit cheap blackleg labor to force wage reductions in England and throw hundreds of thousands of unemployed on the streets.

This change in the whole nature and operations of British capitalism is of the utmost importance, if one is to understand the present political situation in England. It explains the weakness of the Lloyd George coalition, the rise in the power of the Conservatives, backed by the higher aristocracy and by the great international banking houses of the “City”. It explains the shipwreck of the idea that British industrial capital is to take the lead in the reconstruction of Central Europe and Russia. It explains the success of the French bondholders in sabotaging the original idea of the Genoa conference through their mouthpiece, M. Poincaré. For there is every reason to believe that in the “victorious” countries of Europe, where currency deflation and trade depression are in full swing, a new era of finance capital has arrived. The international money merchants, the Rothschilds, the Kleinwerts, the Pierpont-Morgans, the Wartburgs, the Levys, who live in Paris, London, Berlin and New York and who know no nationality, are again becoming powerful. The day of the war profiteer is gone.

Mr. Lloyd George has failed in his plan to secure for British industrial capital a dominant position, through Genoa, in the reconstruction of Europe. But he it not beaten yet. It may be that he will now try to put himself at the head of some of the big financial groups, who have met in London recently in preparation for Genoa and who are working out plans for a large international credit scheme with guarantees from the debtors. But what fate awaits the workers of Germany and Russia in view of these new developments of international capitalism? At Genoa, Soviet Russia at least will have the opportunity to follow an independent policy towards the capitalist powers of Western Europe. The tactics which it follows will have to depend in no small degree on the question whether or not banking capital and the money merchants, who are in power in France and seem to be coming to power in England, are able to overcome the rivalry which has hitherto been going on between the Federation of British Industries and the French bondholders. If it should not be able to do so, then the position of Soviet Russia and consequently also of the German proletariat will be strengthened. They can then hope to derive some benefits from the fact that finance capital cannot yet unite across frontiers. Then Soviet Russia will be able to make use of a new “breathing space” and conclude separate agreements with each financial group. The German proletariat will also benefit indirectly, if this “breathing space” enables Soviet Russia to continue an independent economic existence and escape the fate of a colony. On the other hand if the international finance consortium should come about at Genoa, the immediate danger to the proletariat of all the world cannot be too much exaggerated. It will mean the mortgaging of the natural resources of the world and labor everywhere to a great international exploiting machine. True, there will be no more war, but there will be the peace of the graveyard and the silence of the slave-galley. On the other hand this will bring the world one step nearer to the time, when, in the words of Rosa Luxemburg, “capitalism will be drowned in its own surplus values” (ersticken im eigenen Mehrwert).

Last updated on 2 September 2019